The government of Belarus, a staunch ally of Russia through the country’s war with Ukraine, has temporarily legalized piracy of media and intellectual property from “unfriendly” nations. The move comes after the United States imposed sanctions on Belarus in July of last year, cutting off the European country from most Western financial institutions, entertainment companies, technological industries, and more.
Belarus’ government signed the law into effect last month without objection from President Alexander Lukashenko, who has referred to himself as Europe’s “last dictator.” It essentially legalizes the piracy of copyright-protected content including computer software, movies, and music from the U.S., U.K., E.U., and other countries sympathetic to Ukraine.
The United States has been at odds with Lukashenko since he came to power in a 1994 democratic election. He has maintained control of Belarus through a number of suspiciously one-sided elections, eventually abolishing presidential term limits. In 2020, he cracked down on internal dissent following a 2020 election many have deemed fraudulent. Since showing its support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Belarus and Russia alike have had business ties with major international companies like Amazon, Intel, Spotify, and others forcibly severed.
While the new law technically permisses piracy of foreign media, those who access such content will still be required to pay royalties to the rights owner. Given the nature of sanctions on Belarus, however, the domestic patent authority will hold the payment for a period of three years. If the money is not claimed within three years, it will be absorbed by the Belarusian government.
“After three years, the remuneration not demanded by the right holder or the organization for the collective management of property rights will be transferred by the Patent Authority to the republican budget within three months,” the law reads, according to TorrentFreak.
The law posits itself as a response to “foreign states that commit unfriendly actions.” It is also presented as a solution to “the development of the intellectual and spiritual and moral potential of society” and “the reduction of critical shortages in the domestic market of food and other goods,” per the Odessa Journal.
Belarus’ privacy law will remain in effect for two years and expire on December 31st, 2024.